“The beginning is really important.”
The importance of the first match of the Asian Cup, which was also emphasized by national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was properly proved by the teams that took the lead.
Team Korea’s 2023 Asian Cup championship had a rough start. Australia struggled throughout the first half of Group B before catching up with 2-0 victory due to empty mistakes made by its opponent’s goalkeeper in the second half. Few critics say that Australia did a good job. India had an audacious fight. Despite its absolute inferiority of 4-28 shooting, 29%-71% ball possession, and 289-692 passes, Australia had an interesting 90 minutes thanks to its non-defensive performance of the game.
Vietnam under Philippe Trusier, a former coach of the Japanese national team, also shook Japan as a starting member of the 1.5th team. Takumi Minamino scored the first goal, but he shook Japan by scoring two goals with a set piece. He lost to Minamino and Keito Nakamura at the end of the first half, but he held on tactically until he gave up his fourth goal to Ayase Ueda at 40 minutes in the second half.
It is a bit far from a championship title, but China disgraced itself by tying 0-0 with Tajikistan that made it to the finals for the first time. Uzbekistan also lost ground by tying 0-0 with Syria. If it wants to take the first place, it will have to beat Australia. The UAE reversed the trend after being embarrassed by Hong Kong’s wave offensive, with a successful penalty kick due to a handball foul.
It has always been confirmed in international competitions such as the Asian Cup and the World Cup that the second round will be more difficult if the first round is not solved properly. The strategy of setting a goal of advancing to the round of 16 in the group, controlling the third round at a rapid pace after two consecutive wins, and going to the final with the dualization of the team will be disrupted.
Excluding the first to third competitions in which four countries participated, Korea has five wins, six draws, and no losses. Including the first to third competitions, Korea has six wins, seven draws, and one loss. It is positive that there is virtually no loss, but the record that the draw is slightly more than the victory indicates that the first game will never be easy.
Teams that encounter Korea have similar strategies. It is called “defense first and counterattack.” This is evidenced by the outcome of a one-goal match. The two teams had four consecutive draws through the 2007 Asian Games, which were held in China, which expanded to 12 countries including 1996 UAE and 2000 Lebanon, and further expanded to 16 countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Coincidentally, the two teams reached the quarterfinals twice and ranked third twice.
I remember meeting with Bahrain at the 2011 Qatar Championship, and winning 2-1 with two goals by Koo Ja-cheol (Jeju United). If Bahrain, which plays a lot and is good at physical fights and intelligent fouls, fails to show accurate set piece and goal determination, it may not be easy to manage the game again this time.
Coach Klinsmann believes in the creativity of his players with autonomous soccer, but he saw the task of the imbalance in offense and defense through an exhibition match with Iraq on the 6th. In particular, most of the defense, except for Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich), are K-League players whose season ended in the second week of December last year.
Left-side defender Lee Ki-je (Suwon Samsung) did not have a chance to play since he finished the regular season league in early October. Since his participation in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2026 North-China World Cup in November will be his last actual match, it will not be easy for him to get into shape. If he is pushed back by counterattacks, it is likely that Korea’s game management will become more complicated.
The team needs cool-mindedness. It would be great if the team expects multiple goals, but first, it is more important to achieve a victory. If the team fails to score the first goal quickly, it could face a setback. From the 1980 Kuwaiti Championships, which expanded to 10 countries, all matches ended with one goal only.
Bahrain lost to Australia and Angola 0-2 and 0-3 in its two warm-up matches ahead of the Asian Cup, respectively. In November last year, it beat Yemen, a similar level, 2-0 in the first leg of the World Cup’s second qualifying round, but lost to UAE, under former national soccer team coach Paulo Bento, 0-2. If the level was even higher, it would not have led the game.
Bahrain is the most qualified opponent since Serbia, which is playing in the finals just before the Qatar World Cup in November 2022. It lost 1-5 to Serbia, reducing the power gap. It allowed Doosan Tadic (Fenerbahce) to score multiple goals and lost points to Doosan Blahovic (Juventus), Philippe Yuric (Panathinaikos), and Luka Jovic (AC Milan).
Of course, Bahrain knows that South Korea is weak in patience and exposes its frustration on its own if it properly plays a dense defense that stops two buses. In the round of 16 of the 2019 UAE tournament, the same strategy was used to finish the 90 minutes 1-1 and drove it to overtime, and I remember losing 1-2 to Kim Jin-soo (Jeonbuk Hyundai) just before the end of the first half, so I am full of confidence that I can do it. 라바카지노
“We respect Bahrain and it will be a difficult game. We can think about the next game only when we finish the first game well,” Klinsmann said, vowing to fully concentrate on his performance.
South Korea’s Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), and Kim Min-jae are all ready to play. However, Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton) and Kim Jin-soo are recovering from injuries, so a question mark has been raised on whether they will play or not. The key is how good Lee Kang-in and Lee Ki-je, who are likely to move to the left side, show their defense and participation in the attack.